Unaxis to set up equipment manufacturing, R&D, logistics center in Taiwan

Dec 02, 2003 Ι Industry In-Focus Ι Electronics and Computers Ι By Quincy, CENS
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Taipei, Dec. 2, 2003 (CENS)--Unaxis Displays of Switzerland, a leading supplier of coating systems for thin film coatings needed for the flat panel display industry, has decided to set up a manufacturing, R&D and logistics center in Taiwan.

Unaxis plans to invest over NT$1 billion (US$29.41 million at US$1: NT$34) in Taiwan. It will transport its seventh-generation plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) equipment to Taiwan, trying to win orders from local thin film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panel makers such as AU Optronics Corp. (a merger of formerly Acer Display Technology Inc. and Unipac Optoelectronics Corp.), Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. (CMO), Quanta Display Inc. and HannStar Display Corp.

Industry sources said that Unaxis is scheduled to soon hold a board meeting to finalize the new investment project, to which the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) pay much attention.

Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Ltd. (CPT), another leading TFT-LCD panel maker in Taiwan, is expected to soon sign a letter of intent (LOI) with Unaxis to procure PECVD equipment for its scheduled sixth-generation panel plant in Taiwan. Industry sources said that CPT adopted the equipment supplied by Unaxis at its current three panel plants on the island and is expected to continue employing products made by the Swiss firm.

In addition to Unaxis, AKT Inc. of the U.S., another leading TFT-LCD equipment maker, recently also announced plans to set up a R&D center in Taiwan.

The said sources noted that both Unaxis and AKT's moves are expected to further accelerate the development of more localized equipment and the two companies are expected to cooperate with local partners to jointly develop niche products to upgrade their international competitiveness. This, in turn, is expected to spawan a more vivid development of the island's precision machinery and parts industries.

Unaxis's new center will be located in northern Taiwan's Hsinchu area, the island's high-tech R&D and production citadel, and will supply the core PECVD and physical vapor deposition (PVD) equipment to local sixth-generation TFT-LCD panel makers late next year.

According to a Unaxis official, the PECVD and PVD equipment for the production of sixth-generation TFT-LCD panels are too big and heavy to be transported by a B-747 cargo airplane, and should therefore be locally assembled or produced. Unaxis claimed that its seventh-generation PECVD equipment could produce over 2,000mm x 2,0000mm films for TFT-LCD panels and it would try to win orders from customers in Taiwan and South Korea.

All of the top five makers of large-sized TFT-LCD panels in Taiwan have mapped out production-expansion and (or) new-generation plant construction projects. AU Optronics, CPT and HannStar have kicked off construction of their sixth-generation panel facilities and are planning on their seventh-generation plants; CMO is constructing a 5.5th-generation plant and planning for a seventh-generation; and Quanta is scheduled to directly jump into seventh-generation panel production.

In the coming three to five years, industry sources said that all the TFT-LCD panel makers in Taiwan are expected to invest over NT$1 trillion (US$29.41 billion) in new-generation panel business deployment. This the sources said, would make Taiwan become a global production and investment citadel for the TFT-LCD panel industry and attract more and more foreign companies to set up R&D and manufacturing centers on the island.

AKT Taiwan president Su Jin-chung said that AKT has successfully developed seventh-generation PECVD equipment, which can meet the core machinery requirements from the seventh-generation panel plants of Samsung of South Korea as well as Taiwan's seventh-generation-ready makers.
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